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Niacin (B3) Science

Friday, March 23, 2018

Niacin, water-soluble vitamin B3, and its derivative nicotinamide, are dietary coenzyme precursors of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide NAD, which can also be a phosphate derivative of an organic coenzyme molecule called NADP.

NAD has become wildly popular in products designed to address the aging process.

According to Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center, NAD functions most often in energy-producing reactions involving the degradation (catabolism) of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and alcohol, while NAPD functions more often in biosynthetic (anabolic) reactions, such as macromolecules, including fatty acids.

Interesting diet, corn preparation, and niacin deficiency information


Diets high in corn products can be associated with niacin deficiency related maladies. Although, the malady is far more common in social classes whose chief dietary staple consists of corn, which interestingly includes a healthy amount of niacin. 

Our friends in Mexico, however, where corn is also an important dietary staple for certain social classes, rarely suffer these maladies. The difference being, the Mexico traditional preparation of corn tortillas involves soaking the corn in lime (calcium oxide), prior to cooking. Heating the corn in an alkaline solution results in the release of bound niacin, dramatically increasing its bioavailability.


Niacin deficiency symptoms

The most common symptoms of niacin deficiency involve skin and the digestive and nervous systems. In the skin, a scaly, dark- pigmented rash develops symmetrically in areas exposed to sunlight. Digestive system issues include inflammation of the mouth and tongue, constipation, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Neurologic symptoms include headache, apathy, fatigue, depression, disorientation, and memory loss.

Niacin deficiency is often associated with malnutrition observed in the elderly, the homeless population, young women suffering from anorexia nervosa, those who suffer obesity, and in those who consume diets high in corn products and poor in animal proteins.

RDAs and supplement fact boxes

The RDA for niacin is based on the prevention of deficiency, not the prevention of disease. The most recent (1998) Food and Nutrition Board of the US Institute of Medicine recommendation for niacin intake chose at that time to use the excretion of niacin metabolites as an indicator of niacin nutritional status rather than the symptoms of disease. 

Since that time, studies of cultured cells provide evidence that NAD / NAPD content strongly influences mechanisms that maintain genomic DNA stability. Many researchers now feel that cellular NAD and NADP content may be far more relevant indicators of optimal niacin nutritional status.

Lack of DNA stability can lead to or indicates declining immune system health, digestive system health, or neurological health in people of all ages, including in the elderly.

The current safe upper level of niacin as nicotinamide is 900 mg per day for adults over the age of 19. The safe upper level of niacin as nicotinic acid is 35 mg per day, per year 2000 government recommendations.

The FDA controlled dietary supplement upper limit percentage daily value represents nicotinic acid, even though most higher quality multiple supplements include the flush-preventing niacinamide form (nicotinic acid combined with the amino acid tryptophan) and clearly state (as niacinamide) in parentheses on the label.  The one drawback, niacinamide is not nearly as capable of the cholesterol lowering effect as nicotinic acid.

Niacin from food sources include yeast, meat, poultry, fish, fortified cereals, legumes, and seeds. Niacin safe upper limits from food sources have yet to be established. 

Ellen Troyer, with Spencer Thornton, MD, David Amess and the Biosyntrx staff


Unfortunately, the government-funded National Academy of Sciences has not funded its Institute of Medicine (IOM), Food and Nutrition Board vitamin / mineral recommended daily value research in years, yet nutrition science moves forward by other means and percent-daily-values recommendations remain at 1998 levels, for the most part, resulting in the FDA-required information presented in supplement fact boxes being very confusing to the general public at times.

The most recent IOM publication 
Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline was published in 1998, with a few small revisions in the year 2000. 

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